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To Stick It to Belgium, Should U.S. Soccer Fans Boycott Budweiser?

Fans of the U.S. team celebrating during this year's World Cup

Photograph by Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

Fans of the U.S. team celebrating during this year's World Cup

Belgium presents an unusual problem for U.S. soccer fans looking to work up a little patriotic animosity ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup match. The country is best known on this side of the Atlantic for waffles, chocolate, and beer—or, as many Americans call them, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Still, fans and businesses are finding ways to take a stand against all things Belgian.

In maybe the bravest act of gastronomical patriotism since the U.S. House of Representatives took a stand a against French fries, Waffle House has come out against both “Belgium” waffles …

… and Belgian waffles:

Chicken and biscuit chain Bojangles is also jumping on the anti-Belgian bandwagon.

The Potomac Nationals, a minor-league affiliate of the Washington Nationals, removed the Belgian beer taps from their ballpark in Virginia last night.


The two beers removed from circulation, according to the Washington Post, are Shock Top Belgian White and Stella Artois. Both brands are owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD), the Belgian corporation that also makes the most popular beer in the nation, Bud Light, as well as the iconic American lager, Budweiser.

This raises some sticky questions for U.S. fans. Is it about where the beer is brewed? (Shock Top, for the record, is brewed in the U.S.) Is it—as with waffles—just about style? Or do loyal U.S. fans need to avoid all Bud, along with the rest of Anheuser-Busch InBev brands?

If so, the world’s largest beer maker is hard to escape. Stella Artois, along with Budweiser and Corona, is one of its three “global brands.” The company also claims “local champions” in Brazil (Skol, Brahma), Argentina (Quilmes), Belgium (Jupiler), Mexico (Modelo Especial), and just about anywhere people drink beer.

On Twitter (TWTR), at least, Stella is losing out.

And Anheuser-Busch InBev, a longtime FIFA sponsor, is pumping Team USA with Clydesdales, fighter jets, and Budweiser.

In the long run, however, Stella is winning. The brand is a dram compared to Budweiser in the U.S, selling 1.6 million barrels last year, according to Eric Shepard of Beer Marketer’s Insights, while Bud sold 15.35 million barrels. Stella ranks 19th in the U.S. market; Bud comes in third. And top-seller Bud Light sold 37 million barrels. But Stella is growing fast, up more than double from 755,000 barrels five years ago, while Bud continues a long, slow slide from its peak of 50 million barrels in 1988.

So a battle between Bud and Stella isn’t a knockout game for AB InBev. Unlike the teams competing this afternoon, the giant beer maker can’t lose.

Boudway is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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